Exactly three years later, a health care discussion breaks out!


That isn’t Ezra Klein’s fault: On the one hand, Ezra Klein wrote a very informative piece in Sunday’s Washington Post.

To read Klein’s important report, just click here. In recent months, the Post has been a much more serious newspaper than the New York Times.

Klein was reporting on a very important question: Why does health care cost so much in this country? Why does it cost so much more than in other developed nations? On the one hand, Klein’s report is very informative.

On the other hand, it arrives three years too late!

All through the year 2009, our major news orgs pretended to conduct a discussion of health care. In fact, they struggled and clawed to avoid a key question: Why does health care cost so much more in this country? As opposed to everywhere else in the developed world?

They avoided that question like the plague. Yesterday, Klein addressed it. His report was built around a new study. But early on, we noted Klein saying this:
KLEIN (3/4/12): There are many possible explanations for why Americans pay so much more. It could be that we’re sicker. Or that we go to the doctor more frequently. But health researchers have largely discarded these theories. As Gerard Anderson, Uwe Reinhardt, Peter Hussey and Varduhi Petrosyan put it in the title of their influential 2003 study on international health-care costs, “it’s the prices, stupid.”
Say what? An influential study had appeared in 2003? An influential study which explained why we get looted on health care? We fired up Nexis and took a look, knowing what we would find.

Sure enough! According to Nexis, that influential study was never mentioned in any newspaper in 2009! (We searched on its title.) According to Nexis, it was mentioned once in a news magazine—in the August 1, 2009 issue of U.S. News & World Report.

Needless to say, it wasn’t mentioned on cable. In our nation's year-long Potemkin discussion, this "influential study" got sent down the memory hole.

All year long in 2009, we noted the way the major news orgs were refusing to examine that basic topic. Klein’s report is very instructive, although we think he underplays a basic question: Where does all that extra money go?
Who's getting rich on our health care?

Klein’s report is very instructive. It’s also three years late, although that isn't his fault.

One final word to the wise: Don't expect to see the Times report on this topic at all. The Times has sillier things to discuss. Silly is plainly their beat.


  1. Let's not forget that the other side of prices is who charges them -- they represent income for doctors, revenue to hospitals, sales of drugs and medical devices, and so on. According to Klein's report, the pharmaceutical and medical device industries are two of the five most profitable industries in the U.S. Is it any wonder they lobby tirelessly against anything that might cut their revenues by making U.S. prices more comparable to prices in other industrial nations?

  2. You laid it out beautifully in 2009. I remember cutting and pasting your breakdown of per-person costs on many websites, always crediting you. I don't think I ever once saw the NY Times or the Washington Post or any other newspaper ever break things down so simply, save Krugman and James Fallows, who came very close.

    Most of the other papers and mainstream media, nada. All they kept blathering about was percentage of GDP, cost curves, yada yada over and over.

    It's clear to me that there's a kibosh on calling out the insurance companies for padding their pockets. That's what they're doing. When health care ceases to be a social good focused on health care and becomes an asset-focused business meant to line the pockets of executives, you've got a serious problem. Throw in the Catholic hospitals with their desire to institute a reverse Kulturkampf on everyone, and we're really talking about a mess.

    And nowadays with US healthcare, we're really talking about a mess.

  3. Frontline did a report which compared the health care systems in various countries called "Sick Around the World" and I remember watching a similar 20-minute report on CNN. There's also Michael Moore's film "Sicko".

    That's about it.